River Springs is a house full of stories.
As one of the 11 stops on this year’s Southern Maryland portion of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, the historic home in Avenue fulfills all the requirements.
Beautiful home. Beautiful landscaping.
Beautiful view. But River Springs’ stories are worth the trip all on their own — the parties, the dining room that could seat 100 guests, the high-stakes poker game in which Colton’s Point was reputedly lost, the period when the property was used as a resort and then as a hospital and spa, the summers when the extended family would congregate at the waterfront property ... and then again there were the parties, which featured guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“It was known as a party place,” said Myra Hughes, wife of Dr. Gordon Hughes, who owns River Springs along with Gordon’s brother, Gerry Hughes.
Located on the original St. Clement’s Manor of 1,030 acres granted to Thomas Gerard on Nov. 3, 1639, a portion of the property is still owned by family descendants. The original River Springs home, built by Dr. George Blackistone in 1841 (the Blackistones married into the Gerard family in 1669) features portraits of generations of Blackistones, family Bibles dating back to the 1600s, 9-foot-high ceilings, much of the original glass in the windows, original oak flooring and antique furniture. The Hughes brothers are direct Blackistone descendants.
River Springs also features china collections and glassware, some passed down through the family, some purchased during Myra’s and Gordon’s worldwide travels related to his work as an otolaryngologist. He now is the program director of clinical trials in the division of scientific programs at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
There is a table from India, art from Greece, the photo of the family with now-deposed President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the photo of Gordon and other physicians with Pope John Paul II and other items from Holland, Austria, Germany, England and Denmark.
“There’s so much history all the way round,” Myra said recently, as she pointed out some of these items during a walk-through of the first floor of the home, which, along with the grounds, will be open for the pilgrimage.
The Hugheses primarily vacationed at River Springs until last May, when the couple moved to the family home. “I am so looking forward to meeting St. Mary’s County people,” Myra said of the couple’s participation in the pilgrimage. “I love parties.”
She noted that River Springs is a relaxing place. “When my husband gets down [home], his blood pressure drops 10 points,” she said.
The last time River Springs was open for the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage was in 1971.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the pilgrimage, which is held in regions throughout Maryland to raise funds for the preservation and restoration of architecturally significant properties in the state. The Southern Maryland portion of the pilgrimage rotates among St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert counties.
“Because we are a water-oriented county, we generally try to showcase that fact,” said Anne Ridenour, co-chairwoman of the St. Mary’s event, along with Karen Doherty. “This year, we chose the Potomac River side ... the stops are on Breton Bay, St. Clement’s Bay and Wicomico. All of our sites have magnificent views of the waterways.” Both Ridenour and Doherty are members of the St. Mary’s County Garden Club, which hosts the St. Mary’s leg of the pilgrimage.
This year’s tour, which will be held May 5, rain or shine, will feature three historic sites and eight private homes. In addition to River Springs, the pilgrimage sites include the St. Mary’s County Welcome Center in Charlotte Hall, Ocean Hall in Bushwood, The Farm at Blue Heron Cove in Colton’s Point, Summerwind in Colton’s Point, the St. Clement’s Island Museum in Colton’s Point, the Port of Leonardtown Winery and McIntosh Run Park in Leonardtown, a home on Helen Lane in Leonardtown, Whit’s End in Leonardtown, a home on Knight Road in Leonardtown, the Camalier House in Leonardtown and Tudor Hall in Leonardtown.
Funds raised from all five of the regional Maryland pilgrimages, held from April 28 to May 20, are pooled and then the funds are distributed to projects in those regions. The Southern Maryland’s share will go toward the collection and preservation of the Charlotte Hall Military Academy’s archives.
St. Mary’s tourThe following is an abbreviated version of the Southern Maryland pilgrimage itinerary. For more, see www.mhgp.org and click on “St. Mary’s” at the bottom of the page. Signs will be posted to assist pilgrimage participants.
1. St. Mary’s Welcome Center is at 37575 Charlotte Hall School Road. The facility is situated in a building once used by Charlotte Hall Military Academy, which first opened its doors in 1797. Visitors can view displays highlighting the history of St. Mary’s County and also have access to a rest stop before continuing on the tour. Visitors can take a short walk to Dent Chapel, erected in 1883 in memory of the Charlotte Hall School’s principal. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival-style architecture in the state.
Take Route 5 south toward Leonardtown and take a right onto Route 242 south toward St. Clement’s Island. Turn right onto Route 239 (Bushwood Wharf Road) and travel 1.3 miles to the destination on the left.
2. Ocean Hall is located near the shore of the Wicomico River and is believed to be the oldest documented brick building in the state, with a preliminary tree ring dating date of 1703. It is also believed to be the only surviving Colonial “cruck roof” a type of curved timber framing structure in America. The house was originally located at the center of Bushwood Plantation (1654) and was the home of the Slye family. An archeological site 100 feet southeast of Ocean Hall is the probable location of Fendall’s Rebellion (1660). Owners: Dr. James and Jennifer Boyd
From parking area, turn right and travel back to Route 242. Turn right at stop sign and travel 1.4 miles to River Spring Road. Turn right and travel .4 miles to destination on left.
3. River Springs is located at 20695 River Springs Road. The property is located on the original St. Clement’s Manor of 1,030 acres granted to Thomas Gerard in 1639. Subsequent surveys in 1642 and 1678 increased the size of the manor to 11,400 acres. In 1669, Elizabeth Gerard, daughter of Thomas, married Nehemiah Blackistone. As a wedding gift, Thomas Gerard gave the couple Longworth Point and Dare’s Neck, today’s Colton’s Point and adjacent lands. The part of the property now known as River Springs contains 88 acres and is a private residence that includes the main residence, two cottages and a working farm. The original house was built by George Blackistone in 1841, and contained large wings on either side. During the mid- to late 1800s, Dr. Richard Pinkney Blackistone used the wings of rooms as lodgings for patients. In the early 1900s, Robert Deminieu Blackistone Sr. converted the structure to a resort hotel with a riverside gazebo for dancing in the evenings. During the 1930s, his children, Jane Blackistone Hughes and Robert Deminieu Blackistone Jr., removed the wings and gazebo, and added a kitchen, three bathrooms and a portico front porch.
Return to Route 242, turn right and then turn right onto Waterloo Court and bear right onto Waterloo Road, turning left onto Wellington Court. Destination is on the far left.
4. The Farm at Blue Heron Cove on the Potomac is located at 20530 Wellington Court This contemporary variation of a traditional farmhouse was built in 2009 by a St. Mary’s County builder from plans inspired by the owners. It sits on the riverside of a 25-acre parcel, with 800 feet of Potomac River waterfront and more than 1,000 feet on Dukehart’s Creek. An open plan on the first floor blends kitchen, dining and living room spaces, anchored by a stone wood-burning fireplace. The finished basement has a game room, gas fireplace, wet bar and bonus space. The second floor has a large, sunny master suite, guest rooms and a cozy library. The owners’ eclectic art collection is on display throughout the home. Owners: Sheila and Ray Hiebert
Return to Route 242. Turn right and then turn right onto Beach Road. Destination is on the left.
5. Summerwind is located at 38095 Beach Road. This brick rambler takes advantage of the home’s expansive views of the Potomac River, Dukehart’s Creek and St. Clement’s Island. The soaring living room ceiling imparts a spacious feeling, while the tray ceiling in the dining room area suggests intimacy. The family room, opening to a screened porch, is anchored by a stone fireplace. The master bedroom opens to a private spa patio. The owners’ art collection features local water scenes along with Western and mountain-inspired works. New landscaping and curving walkways offer a warm welcome.
Turn right onto Beach Road and then left onto Route 242. Turn right on Bayview Road and follow signs for St. Clement’s Island Museum.
6. St. Clement’s Island Museum is at 38370 Point Breeze Road in Colton’s Point. St. Clement’s Island was the first landfall of the 140 original Maryland colonists in 1634. The St. Clement’s Island Museum was established in 1975. The exhibits and orientation film trace the history of the English colonization of Maryland, and hold artifacts that tell the story of life on the Potomac River in earlier times. Visitors may take the Water Taxi II to St. Clement’s Island, where there is a replica lighthouse built in 2008 through the efforts of the St. Clement’s Hundred.
Return to Route 242, and turn right and travel to four-way intersection. Turn right onto Route 234 toward Leonardtown, merging onto Route 5 south. Turn right onto Route 243 and then left to destination.
7. The Port of Leonardtown Winery and Macintosh Run Park are located at 23190 Newtown Neck Road. The Port of Leonardtown Winery is a cooperative of 10 local vineyards. Visitors may tour the winery and learn about their award-winning wines. This location is also the lunch site for the tour, and restroom facilities are available.
Leaving parking area, turn left on Route 243 and then left onto Bull Road. Turn left onto Knight Road and 0.7 miles to Philip Drive. Turn right into The Mulberrys on Breton Bay. Travel 0.4 miles to Helen Lane and turn right. Destination will be on the right.
8. 21905 Helen Lane was built as a retirement home in 1998 and faces Breton Bay. The beach-style home features the living quarters on the second floor, which provides a water view. Woodworking is one of the owner’s hobbies, so he started by designing his dream shop. He added three garages, and put a house on top. The home features furniture handmade by him. The other owner did the painting and stenciling in most of the rooms of the house. As a Master Gardener and member of the St. Mary’s County Garden Club, she has worked to maintain the gardens. Owners: Dave and Anne Rullman
Return to Philip Lane to stop sign and turn right onto Knight Road. Destination will be on the right.
9. Whit’s End is perched above Breton Bay, and features long, winding front stairs and arched windows, as well as whitewashed bamboo flooring, custom mosaic tile in the kitchen, motorized TVs to maintain the views, dark bamboo ceiling and wall treatments. The third floor includes a yoga studio. There is a putting green on the lower level. Owners: Anna Austin and Mark Whitten
Turn right from driveway and travel to destination on the left.
10. Journey’s End is located at 41720 Knight Road and overlooks Breton Bay. The original center portion of this house was built in 1890 and was the home of Otto and Meta Kraus. Nearly 100 years later and after several subsequent additions, the present homeowners purchased the dilapidated, unoccupied house and property in 1989. They sought help from the local Mennonite community to stabilize the foundation. Picks, shovels and even a horse were used to remove the two-story porch on the waterside of the home, and a basement was hand dug under the center portion. The house was eventually renovated to create a beach style, casual home, now shingled in weathered gray shakes and clad with a metal roof. The bricks used in the chimney in the living room are from an old Mennonite home that was destroyed by fire. The newly enlarged kitchen features a bread-board island and breakfast bar built by the owner, and several cabinets salvaged from the old home. The home is surrounded by a large brick patio, a grape arbor and cottage-style gardens. Owners: Gordon and Judy Moe
Returning to Knight Road, travel to Bull Road and turn right and go to stop sign. Turn right onto Route 243 and travel to intersection with Route 5. Turn right on Route 5 and travel 1.3 miles to intersection with Business Route 5. Turn right and travel half a mile to destination on right.
11. Camalier House is located at 22635 Washington St. in Leonardtown. Aside from Tudor Hall, the Spalding Camalier House is the earliest structure intended as an in-town residence still standing in Leonardtown. Built in the mid-19th century, of late Federal character, the house is a two and one-half story side-passage plan dwelling, boasting modest Greek Revival detailing and proportions. The present owners bought the property in 1985 and have lived in the home since 2005. Owners: Jackie and Lanny Lancaster
From parking area, travel straight onto Court House Drive. Go a short distance and turn right onto Camalier Drive. Proceed to parking lot for Tudor Hall on the right.
12. Tudor Hall is located at 41680 Tudor Place. Originally built in 1756 by Maj. Abraham Barnes, this Georgian-style house became the home of Phillip Key, uncle of Francis Scott Key, composer of “The Star Spangled Banner,” in 1796. Unusual features of the house are the inset portico, the main hall’s hanging staircase and a triple fireplace in the kitchen. The house, which grew and changed over the centuries, now represents what it was in 1820. The garden is guided by that date in its restorations. Visitors can enjoy the boxwood garden and arboretum of native trees that has been planted on the site, and the English yew, reported to be more than 200 years old and 36 feet tall. Tudor Hall is a Maryland War of 1812 site. It now serves as the research library for the St. Mary’s County Historical Society.
If you go
The St. Mary’s County Garden Club will host the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 5 rain or shine.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.mhgp.org for $30. Tickets also may be purchased the day of the tour at any site for $35. Tour participants pay to visit individual sites.
The cost per site is $15 and must be paid on the day of the tour.
Tour books are available ahead of time at St. Mary’s County library branches.
For more information on the tour, call 410-821-6933 or Anne Ridenour at 301-373-5833.
A water taxi will be available at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to take visitors to St. Clement’s Island.
A tour of the island and lighthouse will take one hour. The trip is free of charge, but reservations are required by calling Christina Barbour at 301-769-4723.